M.I Abaga Proves He’s Still ‘The Guy’ at Trace Live Concert

Iyke Bede 

The weather that Thursday afternoon could be described as hot and humid, one that left no room to bask in it. But undisclosed to anyone, the evening would be bucketed down with rain, delaying the Trace Live concert by an hour. 

This, however, didn’t affect the expected attendance, as fans thronged Terra Kulture in Victoria Island, Lagos, drenched but excited at the prospect of witnessing one of Nigeria’s finest rappers, M.I Abaga, on stage. 

While they waited, this reporter observed the sheer level of influence the ‘Money’ rapper had on them. The ‘stan culture’ was palpable right from the entrance to the reception area which had light refreshments. Some of them wore M.I branded merch while others took turns delivering a pre-show concert in the form of a karaoke session that featured his tracks. 

While it was fun to watch them evince bravado on the mic, it was nowhere close to the billed performance when the clock struck 9 pm. 

Amid chants and thunderous claps, with a stage submerged in blinding neon lights, Jude, as he is originally known, emerged on stage walking briskly from backstage dressed in a dark long suit jacket. For a moment he stood to absorb their reverence before launching into the first song of the night, ‘Anoti’, off his 2008 debut studio album ‘Talk About It.’ 

To be sure, his stage presence and charisma could suffice for an important night that marked his stage comeback after a noticeable absence from the rap scene in the late 2010s. Despite these capabilities, he acknowledged the audience as the other half of his act. Word for word, they recited all the verses to ‘Action Film’, and ‘Undisputed’ as the show progressed. 

To replicate the visuals, he distributed white taqiyahs ahead of his performance of ‘The Guy’, the first single from his recently released fifth studio album of the same name. M.I would later proceed to perform ‘Love Song’, another track from the album that features Wande Coal. Revealing a different, more sensual side to him, the mood switched from a high-energy atmosphere to a laid-back one as he freestyled over Mavin Gaye’s 1982 classic ‘Sexual Healing’, leaving the crowd slowly swaying in nostalgia. 

The musical direction, once more, shifted. This time, a choral arrangement of over half a dozen singers flanked him to give a soulful rendition of ‘Overkilling It’, an original song by Djinee that features M.I. It was a spectacle marked by their soaring vocals. 

With the casual manner in which he performed, it became evident he spotlighted both the audience present and those watching the televised event. Collated questions from social media were replied to in real-time. Some of the questions touched on his artistic direction for the recent album, and his marriage to Eniola Mafe which took place a few weeks ago.

“The first rule I want to tell you guys about is confidence. Confidence is really not about arrogance or power; it is about understanding yourself and your weaknesses,” he explained in a passionate tone in response to a fan who inquired about his career trajectory.  

Just like the show opener that started on a high note,  the closing songs were arguably apt to attain a crescendo.  ‘Number One’ and ‘Bullion Van’ quickly transitioned into a popular Nigeria gospel song ‘Amen, Amen, Blessings and Glory’ that left the entire audience screaming at the top of their lungs to hit the final note. 

Truly, it was a live performance that would not be forgotten in a rush. With the Trace Live concert, M.I extended his reign as one of the most celebrated rap figures in Nigeria.

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